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Grads

by Nicole Deterding and David Pedulla

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of for-profit postsecondary institutions in the United States more than tripled, to over 1,100. This rapid rise of for-profit colleges and universities was a sweeping change in the U.S. higher education landscape, particularly for students seeking two-year degrees and employers wishing to hire college graduates without a bachelor’s degree.

Given this monumental change, how do employers evaluate credentials from new educational institutions?

Two recent field experiments have examined employer responses to for-profit and non-profit credentials. These studies sent experimentally manipulated job applications – randomly assigning applicants either a for-profit or non-profit degree – to apply for real job openings. Neither study found a measurable difference in employers’ responses to job candidates who report an associate’s degree in business from a for-profit institution compared to one with an associate’s from a nearby community college.

While this work offers convincing estimates of how employers respond to job applicants with associate’s degrees, it leaves open questions about why employers don’t appear to register a difference between these institution types.

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